In our upcoming holiday concert, Sound the Trumpet!, David Blackadder makes his Tafelmusik debut, performing music by Fasch, J.S. Bach and more.
By David Blackadder
The trumpet is often thought of as being perhaps the most majestic, powerful instrument of all, and traditionally this is often the case especially when large groups of trumpeters played together. The sound of multiple trumpets became so synonymous with the European nobility that it actually became a status symbol in courts across Europe to have an elite group of trumpeters, not unlike having a fleet of limousines or Ferraris today. This tradition still continues in some countries, and you need look no further than the moment when Megan Markle arrived at Windsor Chapel to hear the spine-tingling sound that the trumpeters of the Household Cavalry made to understand why.
However, there is a much more subtle, lesser-known side to the trumpet which uses the more florid, angelic quality of its upper register to symbolize the glory of God and the heavens. Handel’s “Eternal Source of Light Divine” followed the trumpet fanfare at the royal wedding as Megan processed down the aisle, and showed off just how lyrical the trumpet can be, particularly when imitating the human voice.
The trumpet that I used that day and for Sound the Trumpet! with Tafelmusik is a copy of an instrument originally made in Nuremberg by Johann Carl Kodisch around 1700. It was made by Mathew Martin of Norwich Natural Trumpets and has extremely light tubing, which makes it easier to play sustained passages in the high register. This technique of playing developed throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and became highly prized by composers and their patrons alike. The sound that can be achieved in the high register is not unlike that of a woodwind instrument, and the trumpet was indeed said to be capable of being “as sweet as an oboe.” By using different articulations the best trumpeters could play very delicately and their trills were said to rival that of any flautist of the day. Court trumpeters were handsomely rewarded for their prodigious skill and were required to play at the most important ceremonies and state occasions.
In my new partnership with Tafelmusik I would like to bring to light this gentler side of the baroque trumpet and show how it can shine perfectly well without the need to blast loudly at any point. The Fasch Concerto is a wonderful example of this, particularly the beautiful slow movement, and in the Brandenburg Concerto the trumpet shows off its incredible ability to balance with the other soloists in the absolute extremities of its high register. I remember playing to my late father the first recording of the Brandenburg Concerto I ever made as a student at the Royal College of Music. He said, “Sounds more like a flute than a trumpet to me, son.“ He didn’t realize just what a compliment that was, but I knew what he meant and I have always strived to achieve that same quality throughout my career.
I remember receiving the email from Tafelmusik Operations Manager Beth Anderson with the invitation to go to Australia to perform Alison McKay’s memorized program Bach and His World (aka J.S. Bach: The Circle of Creation). It was a cold afternoon in January 2017, and I was hanging out in the men’s dressing room at the Conrad Centre for the Performing Arts, home of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra with whom I was previously a member. Having already done a Tafelmusik memorized program in the past (The Galileo Project, Japan/Korea tour 2013), I was thrilled to take on the challenge of doing another one of these projects. And in Australia? Aw hell yeah, sign me up! And here I am, a year-and-a-bit later, hanging out at the Sensory Lab cafe in Melbourne on a dreary Monday morning, two days after our concert in Perth, the first on an 6-city, 8-concert run in the land down under.
People who know me know that I am a big consumer of food. I have been known to drive across the city, out to Markham, during a snow storm just to get a Mango Saigo at our favourite Chinese dessert spot. And while I may not be quite as extreme as that while on tour, a lot of time is spent thinking about what will satisfy the belly. It was about a year ago that I spent three weeks playing out in Kuala Lumpur, and you can ask my wife — I’ve been talking about Malaysian food non-stop for the last month. I miss everything about it — the smells, tastes, flavours, spices, the sense of family that goes into a simple looking Nasi Lemak. I can’t tell you how happy and excited I was to see the number of hits after Googling, “Malaysian restaurant Perth” (try the same for Toronto … not many, though special mention to One2Snacks for making a mean Hokkien Mee!), with the highly rated Insan’s Cafe being a 4-minute walk from our hotel! I’m embarrassed to report that your Tafelmusik viola section, Patrick G. Jordan and myself, ate at Insan’s Cafe three times in 36 hours. I mean, hey, why not? Amazing food, relatively cheap, close by — no need to even think about it! The memories it brought back were amazing, minus the heat, humidity and depending on where you choose to get your Nasi Campur in KL, the scooter exhaust!
And while food is the tour side-show, music is the real reason we’re here. The music of Bach is a source of spiritual uplift and the embodiment of why we do what we do, and to play this program featuring exclusively the music of this music god with my friends and colleagues of Tafelmusik leaves me in awe. As I sit there listening to Elisa, Chris, Christina, and Olivier play the second movement to Bach’s Trio Sonata BWV1039, I always think that I’m the luckiest person alive.
What you and our audiences the world over hear are the fruits of hundreds of hard individual and collective work. From the individual memory work we all have to put in, to the “play dates” where any number of players will get together (before a rehearsal or concert of a completely unrelated program at home) to run through music — these are all seeds that give way to the beautiful harvest of Bach and His World. And just to take you behind the curtain a little bit more, the parts that the violinists of Tafelmusik play in this program are always fluid, meaning each player often plays different parts with each run. For example, because Chris Verrette was not on the East Coast Canadian Tour in November 2017, parts were re-distributed among the other violinists to make up for his absence. Tricia Ahern broke her arm before the March 2018 run in Toronto, and now Genevieve Gillardeau is not able to join us in Australia, so people have to learn different parts to fill in. Add to that the different stages and their geographical layouts (which call for adjustments to where people walk and stand), acoustics (how do we balance, articulate, and pull our sounds differently?) and ever-evolving musical concepts, what you get is a product in constant change, ever growing and changing with each performance.
And just like my food – I LIKE THAT.
The orchestra has now performed in Perth and Melbourne. For the full Australia tour schedule, visit tafelmusik.org/Tours
I have always been fascinated with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. With music loving parents, I probably heard his music as a small child. I remember the moment when I became absolutely captivated by one of his compositions as a youth. How does he do it? How does his music reach so deep inside us, and how does it have such an uncanny ability to express so profoundly what it is to be human? Performing Bach’s music has been a touchstone of my career as a musician. It’s almost as if I set out on a journey (without realizing it as such) to try to understand Bach’s music deeply, and to communicate this understanding to an audience by performing these compositions to the best of my ability.
Over the course of my forty-year career I have learned that the more you give of yourself to Bach’s music the more it gives back. My love and fascination for Bach’s music led me, in my early days as a professional, to the period instrument movement and the study of historical performance practice. This was a revelation for me. Performing Bach’s music on an oboe that at least resembles one he would have recognized, and understanding in some small way the performance practices and modes of expression that were part of his musical language has vastly increased my appreciation for the expert craft with which his compositions are created.
Bach wrote a quite a lot of music, and his music is performed the world over by many fine music organizations. But an organization devoted to the performance of music by many composers from many centuries cannot perform more than a small number of his compositions with any regularity. A Bach Festival, on the other hand, exists to focus the attention of its audience only on Bach’s music. The Toronto Bach Festival takes as its mission the goal of increasing and deepening our collective understanding of Bach’s art. This includes:
performing all of his music, to broaden our experience of his art.
performing music by his predecessors to provide some understanding of the traditions within which he worked.
performing music by composers whose works were profoundly influenced by his music.
With each iteration of the festival I want to enrich our audience’s experience of Bach’s music. I want to show you the incredible delights of his keyboard music, in many ways Bach’s most personal music. I want to celebrate with you the joys of the instrumental music, both chamber and orchestral. And I want you to experience the wonders of his choral works, much of which you have never heard before.
As I have matured as a musician the depth of my appreciation for Bach’s music has grown considerably. I have come to understand in great detail how Bach uses the harmonic language of his time with such expressiveness. I have learned how he used the musical structures of his time so effectively. I have learned how he set the texts of his vocal works with such amazing clarity. But when all is said and done, I feel I am no closer to explaining how he does it, how he speaks to the innermost core of our being with such devastating insight. This, to me, is the essence of Art: to use the materials at hand to create something that adds up to far, far more than the sum of its parts.
What was that performance that captivated me as a youth? A performance at a Bach festival in the area where I grew up, the Bach Festival of Winter Park, one of the oldest Bach festivals in North America. (In the Orlando area, Winter Park is the equivalent of North York in Toronto.)
One could say (with only a bit of hyperbole) that my experience at this performance set me on my path as a musician. I continued to study music and the oboe in high school, at university in Louisiana, and in graduate school at the Juilliard School in New York. It was only after I left school that I discovered the period oboe, and I immediately realized that the period instrument field is a direct avenue to performing lots of Bach. Immersing myself in the study of historical performance has also provided me with crucial insights into a foundational understanding of the best way to perform his music.
I feel fortunate to have ended up in Canada and Toronto where music is held in such high regard. Perhaps there will be a youth sitting in the audience at one of our concerts who will be captivated by this remarkable music as I was that day many years ago.
J.S. Bach: The Circle of Creation is a celebration of the genius of Johann Sebastian Bach, with an emphasis on the instrumental music which he created for his family, his students, and his colleagues. Using words and images, the performance also honours the artisans and tradespeople whose labor and expertise made the performances of Bach’s music possible, both in his own time and in the 21st century.
The project was born in June of 2014, when the members of Tafelmusik were invited to live in the city of Leipzig for two weeks as orchestra-in-residence at the city’s famous annual Bach Festival. Immersed in the atmosphere of the composer’s hometown, we were able to explore the craft of Bach’s own artisans under the guidance of our generous partners and advisors at the Bach Museum, who have provided many of the images for the project.
Since that time, the orchestra has taken the concert across Canada and the US, and to South Korea and China. Over years of this kind of touring, there is tremendous artistic growth in the performers’ understanding of the music and in a deepening rapport amongst themselves and with the actor on stage. Before we embark on a seven-city tour of Australia this May, we wanted to share with our Toronto audience the version which concertgoers on the other side of the world will experience.
The concert begins and ends with poetry about the honorary patrons of Bach’s city of Leipzig — the Roman god of music, Apollo, and his brother Mercury, who made a glorious musical instrument from the shell of a tortoise and seven strings of sheep gut.
Two millennia later, the instrument makers of the eighteenth century still used materials from the natural world — bird feathers for the quills that pluck harpsichord strings, maple and spruce for the bodies of stringed instruments, and boxwood for oboes. Sheep intestines were still used to create strings for Bach’s instruments, and brass strings were made by hand for his harpsichords.
Centuries-old methods are still used today for the making of historical strings for period instruments. Because the guild members of early modern Europe were obliged to guard their trade secrets, modern makers have had to be detectives, using forensic evidence from scraps of old strings and sources such as Diderot’s eighteenth-century encyclopedia to determine the materials and techniques that would have been used for Bach’s instruments.
The images seen in this concert portray artisans from Bach’s time as well as modern instrument builders who use historical techniques to create instruments for the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. Film footage and still photographs created specially for this performance feature Toronto builder and restorer Quentin Playfair, who made a cello inspired by an instrument from the Stradivarius workshop in 1726; English harpsichord and string maker Malcolm Rose; American oboe maker Harry vas Dias; German bassoon maker Peter Wolf; Toronto bow maker Stephen Marvin; and the artisans of the Aquila String factory in Italy.
Much of the music on the program is typical of the works which would have been performed at Zimmerman’s Coffeehouse in the center of Leipzig. In 1695, the merchants’ guild of Leipzig had petitioned the town council for “street lanterns that would, as in Vienna and Berlin, burn all night to prevent incessant nocturnal crime.” On Christmas Eve of 1701, 700 oil-fuelled streetlights were installed in the city, making it safe for the first time for all citizens to walk freely at night, transforming coffeehouses into venues for recreation and music.
Bach directed an ensemble which performed on Friday nights at the cafe for which the owner, Gottfried Zimmerman, acquired a set of musical instruments. The orchestral suites BWV 1066 and 1068, the Third Brandenburg Concerto, the Trio Sonata BWV 1039, the Goldberg Variations, and the shorter solos for harpsichord, violin, or cello are typical of music which Bach would have performed with members of his family, university students, and amateur players of the ensemble known as the Collegium Musicum. Professional players from the Leipzig town band also participated in these performances.
These municipal musicians had responsibilities for outdoor performances from balconies at City Hall or one of the church steeples in town. Gloria laus et honour and Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme are well-known hymn tunes which would have been played instrumentally by these performers. They were given salaries, clothing, music, instruments, and housing for themselves and their families in the Stadtpfeiffer Gässchen (City Pipers’ Lane), which was also the traditional street for the city’s midwives.
In 1746, the Dresden official court painter Elias Gottlob Haussmann painted a portrait of the 61-year-old Bach holding, as was customary, an emblem of his art. Rather than being pictured with a keyboard, the famous virtuoso chose instead to hold a small piece of paper with three short lines of music — the first eight notes of the bass line of the Goldberg Variations with a six-part canon written in code. It was a powerful symbol of Bach’s roles as composer, performer, and teacher. Like the instrument makers who made his violins and harpsichords, Bach regarded himself as a craftsman who had inherited much from the guild musicians who were his forebears.
The concert ends with a reflection on human hands and the thousands of hours it takes to master the use of a violin bow or a chisel. In the long hours of labour, musicians, and artisans are sustained by the beauty of materials, the artistry of their tools, the guidance of inspiring mentors, and the exhilaration of exploring
the art of a great genius. We share with our audiences around the world an abiding love for the music of J.S. Bach, and it is a privilege to be able to perform it in celebration of his art and in recognition of the artisans, scholars, tradespeople, and music lovers who have made our own performing lives possible.
The Banff Centre for its generous support of film editing for the project. Film editor Jane MacRae and Alison Mackay were able to work at Banff as recipients of Paul D. Fleck fellowships.
Ivars Taurins for his beautiful rendering in calligraphy of the bass line of the Goldberg Variations.
Quentin Playfair and Sue Dickin for the creation and photography of a new cello commissioned by cellist Sandra Bohn.
Jean-Marc St. Pierre of maj productions in Montreal for permission to use his footage of the Aquila factory. We also warmly thank Paul Lewis, and Elizabeth Brown of the Discovery Channel, and Tafelmusik Board of Directors member Trina McQueen for facilitating our use of this footage.
Timothy Barrett, Director of the Iowa Centre of the Book, and filmmaker Avi Michael, creator of the film Chancery Papermaking, for the footage of paper being made as in the time of Bach.
Dr. Daniel Geiger, Microscopist and Curator of Malacology at the Museum of Natural History, Santa Monica, California for his stunning magnified images of materials from Bach’s world.
The Bach Museum, Leipzig for facilitating photography at the museum and permission to use images from the collection.
Production designer Glenn Davidson for creating the photo sequences of hands and Saxon sheep.
Conceived, programmed, and scripted by Alison Mackay
Directed by Elisa Citterio Blair WilliamsNarrator Marshall Pynkoski Stage Director Glenn DavidsonProduction Designer Raha JavanfarProjections Designer Jane MacraeFilm Editor
March 14–18, 2018, Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH
Sinfonia to Cantata 249a
Sonata for 3 violins in C Major, after BWV 1005: I. Adagio
Orchestral suite no. 1 in C Major, BWV 1066: Ouverture
Chorale tune “Gloria laus et honor”
Orchestral suite no. 1 in C Major, BWV 1066: Bourrée & Forlane
Sinfonia in G Minor, BWV 797, for solo harpsichord
Prelude in C Major, BWV 933, for solo harpsichord
Suite no. 3 for violoncello in C Major, BWV 1009: Sarabande
Brandenburg Concerto no. 3 in G Major, BWV 1048: I. Allegro
By Brandon Chui, viola, guest 2017/18 Thursday, November 23, 2017
Food – for me, it is that upon which the entire day is built; the day’s support pillars that are so important that a day’s simple routine (nevermind a complex routine!) just isn’t possible if this architecture has not been properly installed. I always worry about meals, often days in advance, especially when rehearsals and concerts are involved, and being on tour highlights how neurotic I am when it comes to feeding time. We’ve been on the road for four days so far, and while I’ve had a couple too many meals at a world-dominating fast-food chain which shall remain nameless (let’s just say that an Old Farmer with the same name has a song named after him), I’ve also had my fair share of smoked meat sandwiches and shawarma in Montreal to keep the days from turning into a raging dumpster fire.
If food provides my day’s architecture, it’s music that fills it with meaning. I’ve been looking forward to playing Tafelmusik’s innovative memorized program J.S. Bach: The Circle of Creation since being booked for it back in January. Everyone’s learning curve is different, so I speak purely from a personal perspective — memorizing of this nature (viola parts, ie. the inner voices that are harder to memorize) takes months to prepare. There is the initial “installation,” and the constant updates and re-fortification to make sure there are no leaks. I started chiselling away in June while I was in Asia, and have been rechecking things right up until before the two concerts that we’ve played so far.
As prepared and confident as I was at our first concert in Montreal, I won’t lie, folks — I was terrified. Yes, rehearsals were incredibly fun, and it goes without saying the music is extraordinary in every way, but to have in the back of your mind, “Months of preparation and it comes down to now,” does not instill calm. There is something valuable that I learned from playing another Tafelmusik memorized program, TheGalileo Project: little blips will occur here and there. These moments count for nothing; we are human and it happens. What does count is how you recover. It reminds me of something that conductor Jaap van Zweden said when I worked with him: “Nobody plays perfectly, but if you make a correction the fastest, you are the best.”
I’m writing this while en route to Charlottetown PEI after playing in Sackville NS last night, the second of six concerts on this Maritimes + Montreal tour. The two concerts so far have been those, “This is why I do this,” moments. While playing goodness-knows-how-many Imperial March(es) from The Empire Strikes Back has brought the house down every single time, it in no way compares to seeing, feeling, and hearing the uplifting spirit of Bach overwhelming the audience to elation and tears – I will take that any day over Darth. It’s simple, really: I ride for Bach, everyday. I can’t wait to get back at it at tonight’s concert at the Homburg Theatre in Charlottetown. But first thing’s first: pass over that lobster roll!
The orchestra has now performed in Charlottetown, PEI, at Homburg Theatre, Confederation Centre of the Arts and Antigonish, NS, at Immaculata Auditorium, St Francis Xavier University, with thanks to the Antigonish Performing Arts Series. The tour continues tonight in Wolfville, NS, at Festival Theatre with the Acadia Performing Arts Series. The tour concludes on November 26 in Halifax, NS, at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium. More info at tafelmusik.org/Tours
Johann Sebastian Bach, in 1735, set down detailed observations about his ancestors in his Ursprung der musicalisch-Bachischen Familie (Origins of the musical Bach family). This genealogy traces the family as far back as the mid-sixteenth century. By the turn of the seventeenth century, the musical family was so widespread in the Thuringian region that the name “Bach” had come to be regarded as synonymous with “musician.” From birth, it was assumed that virtually every male member of the family would become a musician, and the combination of inherited talent and training from the earliest age assured their success. Yet, as the increasingly popular bourgeois music culture of the late eighteenth century led to a sharp decline in the importance of leading musical institutions (court orchestras, Stadtpfeifer bands, and Cantoreien), traditional music dynasties such as the Bach family quickly disappeared. In 1843, at the ceremonial unveiling in front of the Thomaskirche of the Leipzig Bach monument donated by Mendelssohn, Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst (the then 84-year-old grandson of J.S. Bach) was the sole representative of a family with a musical tradition of over 250 years.
Bach’s relationship with his sons can best be understood in view of this family tradition. He was keenly aware of his responsibility to pass on his legacy to his children, and was proud to record in a letter to a friend written in 1730, that his children “are all born musicians, and I can assure you that I can already form an ensemble both vocaliter and instrumentaliter within my family, particularly since my present wife sings a good, clear soprano, and my eldest daughter, too, joins in not badly.” Of Bach’s twenty children (seven with his first wife, Maria Barbara, and thirteen with his second wife, Anna Magdalena), ten survived infancy. Of these, four were female and six male. Little is known of the four girls, though the quote above suggests that they were well trained in music. Both of Bach’s wives came from musical families. There is no evidence that Maria Barbara was a practising musician herself, but Anna Magdalena was a very gifted soprano. Already at age twenty she was among the most highly paid musicians employed at the court in Cöthen, and continued singing there after her marriage to Bach. She seems to have left her performing career aside upon the family’s move to Leipzig (thirteen pregnancies in nineteen years may have been a significant factor!), but was one of Bach’s principal copyists, and was clearly actively involved in the children’s musical education. One daughter, Elisabetha Juliana (1728–81), married Johann Christoph Altnikol, a pupil of her father; the other three daughters remained single, living with their mother until her death in 1760. Their brother Carl Philipp Emanuel supported them financially from that point. The youngest daughter, Regina Susanna, outlived all of her siblings, and was supported in her final years through a fund raised by the editor of the Leipzig Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, in honour of her father.
Of the six sons, four became successful musicians: Wilhelm Friedemann (1710–84), Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714–88), Johann Christoph Friedrich (1732–95), and Johann Christian (1735–82). The two middle sons apparently also possessed considerable musical talent, but one suffered from a mental disorder, and the other, as stated by his father, “unfortunately turned out badly,” leaving an excellent post of organist to wander about the country, dying at age 24.
J.S. Bach spent a great deal of time and energy in the education of his sons, particularly in that of his eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann. In 1720, he wrote the Clavierbüchlein vor Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (Little keyboard book for W.F. Bach), a basic course in keyboard playing and composition. Indeed, all of his “pedagogical” works, such as The Well-Tempered Clavier, the Inventions and Sinfonias, the Orgelbüchlein, and the Clavier-Übung, must have been written initially with his sons and other pupils in mind. Their course of study would also have included the analysis and performance of the countless works of other German, French, and Italian composers collected by J.S. through his life. He also took care not to neglect their general, non-musical education. He stated that one of the principal reasons for accepting the post of Cantor in Leipzig was to enable his sons to enroll at the Thomasschule, and more importantly, the University of Leipzig.
Johann Sebastian continued to support his sons professionally until his death, finding positions for them, writing letters of reference, and visiting them whenever possible. C.P.E. and J.C. were to eventually exceed their father in contemporary fame: by 1780, when anyone spoke of “Bach,” it was more often one of these who was intended and not the father. Given his great respect for his family’s tradition, this in itself may have been considered by Johann Sebastian to be amongst his greatest accomplishments.
J.S. BACH OVERTURE, AFTER BWV 194
In 1723, J.S. Bach directed the performance of his Cantata 194, “Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest” (Most desired festival of joy) at the church in Störmhal, a village near Leipzig. The church had recently been rebuilt, with a new organ by Zacharias Hildebrandt, a young graduate of the workshop of the famed German organ builder Gottfried Silbermann. Bach had been asked to approve the instrument, and the cantata was performed at the dedication service. The organ is one of only a few instruments known to have been played by Bach that remains in its original condition.
Cantata 194 opens with a chorus in the style of a French orchestral overture, with a grand opening followed by a faster fugal section. As the chorus sings only in the fast section, and even then is doubled by instrumental parts, Alfredo Bernardini has taken the liberty of transcribing the movement for orchestra alone. He retains Bach’s original scoring, for three oboes, bassoon, and strings. In the opening section, Bach gives the main material to the winds and continuo, with the upper strings interjecting with unison scales as a sort of commentary. When the material returns at the end, he reverses the instrumentation: this time the strings and continuo prevail, and the oboes offer the commentary.
J.S. BACH CONCERTO FOR VIOLIN IN E MAJOR
Although only two concertos for solo violin by Johann Sebastian Bach have survived, it is possible that he composed others. Both of the extant concertos exist in alternate versions for solo harpsichord, and some of the other harpsichord concertos are thought to have had their origin in lost violin concertos. The violin was certainly one of Bach’s favoured solo instruments: he turned to the violin as a counterpart to the solo voice in countless arias in cantatas and passions. Although primarily a keyboard player, Bach was also a capable violinist and violist, and he understood fully that the violin could be played on the one hand with great energy and virtuosity, and on the other with the most sublime and tender expression. This is witnessed in the contrasting movements of the violin concertos, which have long been a favourite of violinists and audiences alike.
C.P.E. BACH CONCERTO FOR OBOE IN E-FLAT MAJOR
J.S. Bach’s concertos — both for violin and harpsichord — would have been featured regularly at performances of the Leipzig Collegium Musicum, and the soloists in the harpsichord concertos would invariably have been his sons. It is no coincidence, then, that both Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel wrote numerous harpsichord concertos. C.P.E. wrote no fewer than 52 keyboard concertos, spanning his entire career. A few of these exist in alternate versions: at least three each for flute and violoncello, and two for oboe. The two oboe concertos were written in 1765, during his employ at the Prussian court of Frederick the Great in Berlin. It is likely that they were written for a specific player, either one of the court players, or perhaps more likely, a visitor to the court. It seems from the manuscripts that the oboe concertos were composed prior to the keyboard versions.
C.P.E. was in Frederick’s employment for nearly 30 years, and it was not always the most stimulating environment, as the king had rather staid musical tastes and favoured the “galant” style. In retrospect clearly the most gifted of the many musicians at the Prussian court, C.P.E. was nonetheless underpaid and underappreciated. Fortunately, his creativity, strength of character, and determination enabled him to create an impressive body of work despite the limiting environment, and he offers in his music a truly unique voice. He carried this voice to Hamburg, where he replaced Telemann as Cantor and Music Director for the city from 1768 until his death 20 years later. He had three children: one son became a lawyer; the other (named Johann Sebastian, after his grandfather) was an accomplished painter, but his career was cut short by his early death. His daughter did not marry, and C.P.E. had no grandchildren.
W.F. BACH SINFONIA IN F MAJOR
Wilhelm Friedemann held prominent postings in Dresden and Halle, his organ playing renowned throughout Europe. After his father’s death in 1750 he had repeated difficulties with his employers, and spent the end of his life in poverty in Berlin, his aloofness, intemperance, and desultory behaviour earning him few friends. His music is an intriguing reflection of both the strength of his talent and education, and the eccentricities of his character. Whereas C.P.E. blended the baroque style of his youth with the new to forge a unique blend, W.F. tends to shift from old to new, not only between pieces, but often within a piece. This can be heard in the capricious Sinfonia in F Major, composed in Dresden. In writing notes for Tafelmusik’s recording of the work, the musicologist Peter Wollny suggests the influence of Zelenka, and in the “tender” Andante, of Hasse. The trio of the Menuet is a clever canon, with the bass echoing the violins. The unexpected turns in the first movement earned the Sinfonia the nickname of “Dissonance”: the dissonances here are not meant to stir the passions, but rather are full of wit.
TELEMANN SUITE IN D MINOR
Telemann was godfather to Carl Philipp Emanuel, and a great support to him both personally and in terms of his career, so we have included him as an honorary member of the Bach family in this week’s concerts. With Alfredo Bernardini joining us, it gives us the opportunity to perform Telemann’s Suite in D Minor, scored for three oboes, bassoon, and strings. The use of three oboes, rather than the more usual two, offers a wonderfully rich tutti sound, and gives Telemann the chance to explore the contrasting colours of two four-part ensembles: the three oboes and bassoon versus the string ensemble. It was a texture also favoured by J.S. Bach, used in several cantatas (such as Cantata 194, the opening of which begins our concert), and the Fourth Orchestral Suite. In his orchestral suites, Telemann often leaves aside the traditional arrangement of dance movements for a selection of pieces with fanciful titles. In this suite, he retains the dances throughout, but imbues them with a great deal of character, leaving the musicians and listeners to invent the images they depict or the stories they recount.
For our upcoming concert in April, Bach: Keeping it in the Family, we invited the father/daughter duo Alfredo and Cecilia Bernardini to co-guest direct this (almost) all-Bach program. Both have performed with Tafelmusik in the past but it’s been a while since our last catch-up.
How did you come to decide to be a musician?
Cecilia Bernardini: As I little girl I fell in love with the violin; the longer I played it the more I became sure I wanted to become a violinist. The musicians’ life of my father and his friends seemed attractive and exciting!
Alfredo Bernardini: I sang in a choir and played the recorder as a child. When I heard my first Bach cantata aged 14 I decided I wanted to become an oboist and play that wonderful music.
What was your first music gig?
CB: It was a Schubert sonatina and a Mozart sonata (I think…) in a beautiful Orangerie somewhere in the Dutch countryside, when I was about twelve.
AB: Playing Handel’s opera Ariodante with Tafelmusik at the Scala in Milan in April 1982, with Jeanne Lamon leading, Alan Curtis conducting and my teacher Bruce Haynes playing principal oboe!
What is your ‘guilty pleasure’ music to listen to?
CB: Stéphane Grappelli, Jacques Brel, Björk.. Although I don’t feel particularly guilty about that!
AB: Rossini ouvertures and Latin American rhythmic music.
What are the last three songs/pieces you’ve listened to (on your iPod or phonograph)?
CB: “Royal Consort” of William Lawes by Ensemble Phantasm, Bach violin unaccompanied sonatas by Lucy van Dael and “The Willow song” from Othello (anonymous)
AB: Schumann symphonies, Les voix bulgares, Gesualdo’s madrigals.
What is your favourite thing to do on a day off?
CB: Going for a bike ride in the countryside, visiting my relatives in Amsterdam, or simply enjoying a good book and a glass of wine.
AB: Go to the peak of a mountain and find silence
You often perform together. What is the experience like, to work together as father and daughter?
CB: It’s wonderful; because we know each other so well there is a deep and natural musical understanding between us. The fact that we play two different instruments means that we can look at the same piece from slightly different angles.
AB: It’s an incredible pleasure and fulfillment to combine my two favourite things together: family and music.
In these concerts you are co-directing. How does that work?
CB: I usually leave it to my father to give the big outline and try to help where possible. Obviously I take the lead when it’s strings only. It does help to discuss things in advance so that we don’t end up contradicting each other by accident!
AB: I suppose we try not to interfere with one another too much. For that, it’s important to establish in advance how to share the pieces and the tasks.